Ralph J. Kueppers
10440, Falls Road (MD 25), Lutherville-Timonium, Baltimore County
The Cloisters is located at the crest of a wooded hill to the west of Falls Road (MD 25), immediately north of the Baltimore Beltway (I-695). The building is highly picturesque and irregular in elevation and plan, and features a multiplicity of architectural ornament. The building is 2 ½ stories tall over a full basement, the main block rising to an approximate height of 42 feet. It is principally composed of large, random-sized blocks of a native gray and gold colored rock known as "Butler stone." It has a flagstone roof and architectural details principally of sandstone, wood from the site, plaster, and wrought iron. The main (south) façade is dominated by two asymmetrically placed, projecting sections topped by massive half-timbered gables which were originally part of a Medieval house in Domremy, France. Both sections are two bays wide but the one on the left is broader than the right. Between these sections is a recessed bay which is crenellated at the top. Across this bay a gray stone balcony with turreted ends connects the two projecting sections; below the balcony is the front door. On the far left side of the main façade is a projecting wing, two stories high with gable end facing south. The front of this wing is covered with a plaster and wood, arched, half-timbered design accented on the posts and studs by small carved gargoyle-like figures. The Gothic arch-shaped front door is made of wood banded in iron in a diamond pattern. The door surround is a recessed series of heavy stone moldings, with an inscription of the owners’ names on the outer molding and label molding over the top. There is an additional outer door of glass banded with wrought iron. There are two narrow sidelights to either side of the door. The windows of all the façades are diamond-paned, iron casement windows with random circular bits of stained glass. The windows vary in dimension, most being composed of one, two, or three narrow, vertical sections, and are irregularly spaced along the façade. The roof of the entire building is covered with heavy slate flagstones laid in an overlapping pattern and secured by an iron pin at their edges. The stones are of random size, but most are at least an inch thick and average about 8 to 12 inches across. Decorative details include two pale gray stone circular medallions from a 16th century Venetian house, Romanesque-style antique carved stone figures, and a square, bronze sundial. Projecting from the northwest corner of the house is an octagonal chapel with a tall, sloping roof whose apex is topped by an iron cross. Small buttresses project at the three corners. Two sides of the chapel are lighted by full-length windows. From the left side of the chapel extends the stone and wood cloister area. The single-story, flat-roofed cloister has four Gothic-arched openings and a low, arched doorway on the west façade. The cloister slopes gently down the hillside to a length of nine bays, enclosing a large courtyard. The wooden interior frame of the cloister may have originated in France. The rear (north) façade of the house is dominated by two gable-ended sections with half-timbered top stories off center to the left in the façade. Between the two sections rises the striking form of a massive stone octagonal stair tower, which contains a stone and wrought-iron spiral staircase. The tower is lighted by narrow windows which climb the sides in diagonal lines. It is crowned by a crenellated parapet and a small, round, stone-roofed structure from which one can exit onto the roof of the main tower. Two chimneys rise in this façade, one quatrefoil in shape, and one rectangular with a large, blocklike cap with stepped lower edge. A one-story porch with Gothic-style tracery and a frieze of quatrefoils provides the main entrance from the courtyard. The east façade of the house is the most plain, but rises four stories from the basement level. The principal feature of this façade is a very large, hexagonal porch with a pointed stone roof which rises 2 ½ stories above the open carport on which it rests. The tall windows have narrow vertical sections filled with wooden Gothic tracery from the renowned Baltimore Gothic Revival mansion, Glen Ellen, designed by A.J. Davis.
The Cloisters, a large and impressive example of the late Gothic Revival style, is a handsomely designed house which combines numerous unusual features, including architectural elements from antique European and American buildings and architectural forms such as a cloister, chapel, tower, and crypt. The house shows abundant examples of the finest hand craftsmanship and is particularly notable for unusual applications of the building materials. Unique in Maryland both architecturally and culturally, the Cloisters was originally intended by its owners to be open to the public as a museum, a use to which it was put under ownership by Baltimore City for a number of years.